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Arts of North America

Art created in North America includes objects made by native cultures of the present-day United States and Canada; paintings and decorative arts produced during colonial times; 18th- and 19th-century masterpieces; and the work of contemporary artists and photographers.

 
© 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
 
 
MARK ROTHKO
American, born Russia, 1903 - 1970
Painting
1961
Oil on canvas

92 7/8 x 80 inches

 
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Museum purchase

Arts of North America
 
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By 1949 Mark Rothko had arrived at his signature Abstract style. Rothko used layers of thinned paint, soaked into the canvas, to create nuances of tone that gradually emerged as ethereal, floating rectangles of color. In contrast to the Action Painters, he worked to eliminate the gestural line, creating instead vast areas of color to envelop the viewer.

Rothko viewed color as a means to express emotions, a medium through which paint and canvas could be transformed into the sublime. In this painting, the close hues of the dark colors are punctuated by the vibrant drama of the red band on top. The subtle shifts of color between the lower two rectangular forms and the dark ground create a quiet luminosity that is both majestic and tragic. The shimmering and flickering light, along with the pulsating colors that alternately project and recede, offer an impression of continual movement.